“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂

Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.

Or is it?

I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.

I identify with Phil.

I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.

So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.

What is more important than your health? My health?


Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?

There is something.

Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃

An unexpected climb …


I didn’t set out to climb Mount Seymour yesterday. On the contrary, I had already completed a 45 km workout on the hilly terrain at UBC. But, after running an errand on the North Shore, I found myself at the foot of the mountain with the bike on the rack.

I couldn’t resist.

Mount Seymour is a 12.5 km climb up the the popular ski and hiking destination. It is the most difficult of the 2 local mountains road cyclist train on with an average grade of 6.7%  and, sections as steep as 18%.

I have completed this climb before. For the past several years, I do it at least once a season. This time, I was not properly prepared. I wasn’t prepared mentally (I wasn’t planning to do it that day), I was tired from my earlier ride, I didn’t have any food, and my water bottles were empty. I decided to try the climb anyway. I could always turn around if it got too tough. Right?

This was a tough climb. Hot. Long. And steep. I needed water. And food.

I learned a lot with this climb. I learned climbing is largely mental. It is digging deep, and not letting up. It is continually fighting against not only gravity, but a multitude of negative thoughts.

It was difficult right from the start. I said to myself, “I’ll do 3 km and then turn around”. But when I got to the 3 km marker, I said “I’ll go to the 5 km marker and turn back down”. When I got to the 5 km marker it got a little easier, and I said “I’ll go to the 8 km marker and turn around there”. But when I got to the 8 km marker i said “I’m almost there. There is no point turning back now”.

I had one thought in mind. I wanted a picture of myself at the top that I could share with friends and family. I wanted proof I had done this alone on the hottest day of the year after completing a 45 km ride earlier. Without the picture, no one would believe me.


I didn’t set any records. It took me an hour. People climb it in 30-45 minutes regularly. But I did it, and was exhilarated at the top. I know I can do better. If I was properly prepared, had gels in my jersey pocket, and water in my bottles, I am sure I could climb faster. But, in a way, it was more rewarding completing the climb without fuel. It taught me the mind is the real fuel. By climbing 1 km at a time, fighting off negative thoughts, and focusing on the end goal, I completed the climb confident there are longer, stepper climbs to come.

Chance encounters …


I am always surprised by the people I meet when I am on my bike. Perhaps it is because I am travelling slower, and see more. Maybe I am more relaxed, and open. Whatever the reason, I have met some of the most remarkable people while cycling.

When I travel in the car, there are few opportunities to stop, and it is usually to fill up, take a pee, or find food. On a bike there are innumerable opportunities to stop, listen, and talk. At street corners, in the local parks, and on the road while overtaking other cyclists.

My chance encounters with interesting people could fill a book. The young couple I met on a ferry in the Cyclades islands that had just travelled across Europe on bikes. The school principal I met in Quito that offered me a job to help pay for my trip. The distraught woman I met on a park bench in Stanley Park that I helped find a new job. The intriguing young woman I met in Douglas Park that was in transition. And, all the cyclists I met on long climbs that offered words of encouragement.

The most memorable encountered occurred 20 years ago. I was working in a small mill town in the interior of British Columbia. I had flown there with my bike, and used it to commute each day to and from the mill office. It was a short commute, 10 km at most. On sunny, warm days, I would cycle back into town for lunch at a popular cafe that boasted an outdoor patio with a scenic view of the mountains.

One day, as I sat outside with my customary black coffee and sandwich, an elderly Englishman rolled up on a vintage steel frame touring bike with fully loaded panniers, front and back. This man was heading somewhere. Curious, I asked him to join me.

After he got his tea and muffin, he sat across from me in the afternoon sun. We sat for an hour, maybe longer, as I listened in awe. I never asked his age but I would have guessed 75, maybe older. He had a small but athletic frame, and looked like a seasoned cyclist. Several months earlier, he had lost his wife of 50 years. It wasn’t unexpected but, nevertheless, devastating for him. They had been inseparable their whole lives. He had 2 grown children but, as he was quick to tell me, he didn’t want to burden them. No, he was a proud, stoic, and independent man looking for one last adventure.

He had always wanted to cycle across Canada. Since immigrating to Canada as a teenager, he never had the time, or the money for such a luxury, as he called it. After his wife’s passing, he wondered what he would do with himself, and his house. He wanted an adventure. He wanted to do something different, he said. He was healthy for his age, and had saved up a little money. It was time for a change, he thought.

He rented his house. He would decide what to do with it later. He tuned his bike, loaded his panniers, and headed off across the country. Alone.

If you have never visited Canada, you have to understand it is big. 6,100 km from coast-to-coast. And, it has a very substantial mountain range on the west coast. The Rockies. This is not an easy crossing for anyone, let alone a 75 year old on a fully loaded bike. When I met him, he was half way across the mountain ranges, and looked no worse for wear. On the contrary, he was having the time of his life. He wore a wide, permanent smile and laughed easily. I’m sure he had difficult days. But on this day, he was in a good mood, and anxious to share his adventure.

I never saw him again. I have no idea if he made it. This was before the internet, blogs, and cell phones. I regret not staying in touch, and have been curious ever since.

This gentle man has been an inspiration. Because of him, I realize you are never too old to chase a dream; that travel by bike is more enjoyable, and enlightening; and, when you have a chance encounter like this, always exchange contact information.

I have had numerous chance encounters like this. One day, I’m going to write them all down. Somewhere nestled amongst them is my epitaph.

In the gym …

I am in the gym more these days training on the spinning bike.

I like the spinning bike. In 45-60 minutes, I get a good workout. Together with my Suunto M5 heart rate monitor and the power meter on the Keiser M3 spinning bike, I can monitor the work rate and set realistic goals.

Cycling inside is different. Hotter! There is no wind to help cool you off. There is no traffic. No stops signs. No traffic lights. It is continuous pedalling. There is a flywheel which means no coasting. But the biggest difference for me is the integrated power meter.

Power is the rate at which energy is used over time and is measured in watts. Tour de France riders average 200-300 watts during a 4 hour stage. I have been averaging 225 watts over a 45-60 minute workout including a warmup and cool down. During a warmup I am pedalling at 90-100 rpm and expending approximately 150 watts. During climbs, I am pedalling at 70-80 rpm and expending 250-300 watts and, during sprints 400+ watts.

These are not great numbers compared to younger, more competitive cyclists but they provide a benchmark and give me something to work at and improve upon during the winter months.

I have worked out on the Keiser M3 Indoor Cycle for years. I prefer it over a trainer. For one, it reduces the wear and tear on my road bikes. And, I like going to the gym instead of spinning in the basement. There are others to talk to and learn from. A TV to watch if you want. And, other equipment to help vary the workout. But, most importantly, I can relax in the steam room afterward.

I train with a Suunto M5 heart rate monitor with an integrated coach. It tells me how frequently to workout, at what intensity and duration taking into consideration my age, weight, current fitness level and fitness goal.

Yesterday, the M5 recommended a 55 minute workout maintaining a heart rate between 110-125 bpm. For me, that was like a steady 5% gradient climb requiring an average 210 watts output. I could have worked harder but I am careful to follow the workouts recommended by the watch.

Today, my “coach on the wrist” recommended a “hard workout” – 35 minutes maintaining a heart rate between 130-144 bpm. It was like climbing one of the local mountains. Equivalent to a 12 km climb with a 5-7% grade. I completed the workout in 36 minutes, averaged 247 watts, burned 400 calories and maintained an average heart rate of 136 bpm. Again, I felt like I could have worked harder and gone longer.

These numbers are not precise. They are estimates at best. But they serve as a marker, a starting point for the next few months spent mostly inside on the spinning bike. The goal is to see improvement, particularly more power. I am following a 6-week training program prescribed by my “coach on the wrist” that is best completed on the spinning bike.

What is it with these M numbers? Doesn’t BMW market an M Series? Are Suunto and Keiser related in some way?

I climbed Mount Seymour

Uphill_by_E19Vancouver is fortunate to have 2 local mountains popular with road cyclists – Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour.  Each has a 10+ km paved road to the top servicing popular ski and hiking facilities.  And, both are long, challenging climbs.

Several weeks ago I climbed Cypress Mountain and was very pleased to have completed it in approximately an hour.  Not fast.  I understand some climb it in 30 minutes or less.  And, last weekend I cycled up Mount Seymour in the same time.  Again, not fast but respectable for a “seasoned”, recreational cyclist.

Mount Seymour is the more difficult climb.  Had I known how difficult, I may not have attempted it.  It is marginally shorter (13.1 km) than the Cypress (15 km) climb but steeper with an average grade of 6.9% – half the climb between 7-10% and the other half 4-7% – and an elevation gain of over 900 meters.  According to Strava, this is an HC or “hors catégorie” climb.


Hors Catégorie

“A climb harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. Hors catégorie translates as “beyond categorisation”, and signifies an extremely tough climb.”  


Not bad for a “seasoned” cyclist.  Seasoned is a euphemism for older.  I don’t like thinking of myself as old but I can’t deny it.  I ride as much or more than in my 20’s.  I climb more hills faster and with less effort.  I may be old but I am not done and still capable of improvement.  In any event, I was proud of myself.

I wear a Suunto heart rate monitor and refer to the wristwatch as my “workout wife” telling when and how hard to train.  She is a motivator providing encouragement every pedal stroke.  I completed the Seymour climb in the saddle only getting out of it to rest the muscles.  I climbed most of the mountain with a heart rate in the range of 130-150 bpm.  When it exceeded 160 bpm I was definitely working harder but at no time considered stopping for a rest or turning back.

Climbing separates cyclists.  Everyone can cycle the flats no matter the age or conditioning.  Some will be faster but everyone can do it.  Climbing is different.  Not everyone has the power for steep inclines or the stamina for long climbs.  But hill climbing makes better cyclists of us all.  I look for hills to climb.  I live atop a mountain and do a 3 km climb most days.  Other days, I will do repeat climbs of the UBC Hill – NW Marine Drive from Spanish Banks to UBC to build strength and stamina.  The more I do, the more I want to do.

I had never climbed either Cypress or Seymour before this summer.  I always thought they were beyond my ability.  But a new carbon road bike and a supportive son changed that.  I can’t keep up with the 30 year olds but when I make it to the top, I am certain I feel just as exhilarated and satisfied.

Find a hill to climb.